The last couple of times I’ve traveled to Manhattan I’ve ditched the awkward rides on the subway in favor of walking. In theory it sounds crazy but the island really isn’t all that large depending where you’re going. It’s great exercise (which means you can feel a lot less guilty enjoying food on your travels) and it’s a much better way to see the city. But when I started planning the trip to San Francisco I wasn’t quite as sure about walking the famously hilly terrain of the city. Would it just end up being too much? Would I end up with sore, tired feet and a grumpy attitude? Public transit for the places I was interested in seeing didn’t seem like much of a sure thing. I started considering taxi cabs, something I’d ordinarily never consider. That’s when my friend, who we were in San Francisco to see, recommended Uber.
For the unfamiliar, Uber is an internet start-up based in San Francisco that’s currently making waves, both good and bad, across the world. Their business model is to connect people with cars to people who need rides. People sign up with Uber and use their personal vehicle to taxi Uber customers wherever it is they need to go. The entire exchange is completed via an app. Riders plug in their position for pick up, or let GPS provide it, plus the desired destination. Uber does some magic and connects the rider with a drive in the nearby area. There’s a set rate and the rider pays via a credit card that’s on record within the app. No money is exchanged with the driver and no tip is needed.
Needless to say the taxi industry around the world isn’t too happy with this business model. It’s part of the “disrupt” style of start ups, like airbnb. Taxi drivers in Paris, London, Seoul and Germany, among other places, have sought to intercept Uber. So far though, the start-up is chugging along. There have been some additional bumps though. Just recently a woman claimed to have been held hostage in a car by her Uber driver and driven around for hours. Naturally, the driver has a different story to tell. But regardless of what the truth of the situation is, there are some skeptics — myself included.
But my friend gave me a promo code that was $30 off my first ride so I figured I’d give it a shot. Worst case scenario, I’d use it one way to my destination and then walk back to the hotel if I had an unpleasant experience.
I didn’t end up doing any walking and, after seeing in person just how hilly San Francisco is, I have zero regrets. I have nothing but good things to say about my Uber experience. My first Uber ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Japanese Tea Garden was so easy and positive that my husband and I used the service to get back to our hotel. And then we used it again to get back and forth from Japantown. Uber was so convenient that we ended up using it far more than we intended to.
All of the drivers we had were polite and sufficiently friendly. They drove safely and the cars were all spotless. The fact that no money is exchanged or discussed made it much more comfortable and worry free. The app is pretty neat, too, as it allows you to monitor as your driver’s GPS position as he arrives to pick you up. Likewise, you can monitor your progress to your location.
Would I use the service again? It depends on the city. If it’s a city that’s easily walkable or with decent public transportation, no. But for a sprawling city that isn’t easy on the feet, I definitely would.
Just to be clear, while it all may sound like an ad for Uber, I can assure you the company has no idea who I am and my review is completely unsolicited. If you’re interested in trying the service, use my promo code ckpz5. You’ll save $30 off your first ride and I’ll get $30 off, too.
Photo from the Uber press kit.